by Alex and Becky Chipkin
This interview was conducted in November 2011 by Alex and Becky Chipkin at the spaces of F_AIR – Florence Artist in Residence, after a visit to an open studio session at Villa Romana, Florence where Nora Schultz was residing.
Alex and Becky Chipkin: Where are you from?
Nora Schultz: I was born in Frankfurt and I have been living in Berlin since 2005.
ABC: Why this specific residency?
NS: I was selected to participate in this fellowship. I was happy to receive this offer after I had applied many times to residencies like this one.
ABC: Why did you choose to do this residency?
NS: I really wanted to spend some time somewhere else. Not worry about finances, and work on my artwork. I didn’t really know about the place [Villa Romana]. The director of the residency changed. This makes a difference.
ABC: What did you hear about it, and what has changed?
NS: There was a director Joachim Burmeister that was there since the 80’s. He was lively, but he was also conservative. He thought the residents shouldn’t be influenced by outside information – like hermits. But it is the total opposite now; the director Angelika Stepken is great. I admire her a lot. She is always trying to open up the residency.
ABC: Do you feel integrated in Florence?
NS: I am integrated well with the Villa, but not with the city. There is a gap between the Villa and the city of Florence – this is good for me.
ABC: Does your artwork have to do a lot with your location?
NS: Always – my work is influenced by my location.
ABC: We visited the Villa during the Open Studios on the 10th of September and saw your works in progress. Has your work gone in a new direction since then?
NS: The work I showed in the open studios – I worked with a kind of fiction, this idea of Cararra, ordering a stone block and it being sent to Firenze. The idea of this way of movement, the idea of fiction, and the idea of this condensed material. I was also interested in locating Cararra outside in the garden [of Villa Romana]. This certain found piece (left from someone else) was meant to be a sculpture. I don’t know if it was finished or destroyed, or if it has never been finished, or if it was finished and just rotten by nature and time.
ABC: Which piece is this?
NS: The one in the garden [of Villa Romana]. It had this grate and in the grate was plaster. Just putting this structure on top of it, it is like marking it – like in a landscape – but also like making it mine or something. And so that felt like this end point in this fiction, I found this final point or something. So I was wondering how to move further with the machine now. I am interested in reusing. For some pieces I don’t want to say “this is done” – it’s reusable. And so the machine [a grate used to carry marble] is one of these things. So I try now to put, actually, text and also to use it for actually producing bricks with plaster.
ABC: How did you approach the work you would eventually produce in the residency?
NS:I was reading this biography of Michelangelo. The idea of carving sculpture out of this stone was so strange to me; this idea that there is a sculpture inside of it. When I started using found objects it came actually from this idea of a certain cultural view; everyday life, my surroundings, my environment; almost an ethnological view. So it started with, I was looking out of the window of my studio and the first thing you see – you know – like the first thing you see when you look outside – a little bit ironic also, like the artist in this confrontation with the world or something – there was this construction place. And the other thing is the printing press and its certain connotation. It’s really not interesting to me to say something about analog material, to not use digital or something – I use digital material to survive so what can I do? But this is really not the point. It’s more the idea of printing. The printing press is actually the idea of the possibility to make a reproduction and just – a pile of things. Where [producing] one is not so important. I find the idea of just producing interesting. Everybody has an idea of certain ways of printing, this idea of a very simple confrontation.
ABC: Which I think one couldn’t get so much with something digital. When I look at the work, it is very tactile, very tangible.
NS: That’s exactly the point – which I think is a little bit difficult for me. I think the digital is so much part of my world and I don’t believe in these “real” ingredients. You have the direct thing but also you don’t – and it is a machine, but it’s maybe not working so well and it was meant for something else. I could totally imagine if I would find a way to include a certain digital thing I would. So the digital is always a little bit complicated.
ABC: How does the notion of the digital as being tangible fit in with the city of Florence?
NS: Florence is such a heavy city, and this sticking to the old – of this “real” material, is so intense here somehow. I feel confronted with a certain conservatism, and it presses down on me sometimes. On the other hand I hear there is a certain savageness or wildness here, in Italy. Which is maybe more underground in the way that it is not this obvious appearance in society and politics, but you have these ways of diving down – which I cannot find, as a foreigner, as a woman in my age or something I’m not going to be included.
ABC: You feel that there are these underground ideas and movements which are difficult to penetrate?
NS: I am sure there are. There is this autonomy, and I would like to know more about it. I think autonomy and independence, and maybe it is this family connection, the idea of workers and associations, and – I mean – the fact that they themselves got rid of fascism. They have a certain power, or possibility which is still there somehow. What I find as a tourist, I am confronted with is the constant talk, also from other foreign people about the Italian familiarship and the good food, and it’s all about these good ingredients which I think is a myth and I don’t believe that this is true Italy – I just believe that I am in this middle and I cannot really dive under to see what this city is about. And I don’t want to stick in this criticism about Italy in this very banal way. At the same time I am confronted with these same questions in my own world. It is like how I first felt that my work was considered here. My work was very much related to Arte Povera. It was seen as something that was beautiful, very formalist – which I didn’t think about – it was really not my topic and I felt like there was this certain view and I didn’t understand. Now, I think that I had received it wrong, in a way. Maybe these are other ways to give myself a certain autonomy, which is not to be rationalist or ordered, but a certain savage wild way from which I could learn more. I feel like in Germany order is really important in our community. Like how to explain things – everything has an explanation. It is a wordy language which is about terms and not about relations. I am more interested in relations.
ABC: When did your residency start? When does it end?
NS: I have been here for around 8 months – since the end of February. It ends at the end of November.
ABC: Is the Villa putting on an exhibition at the end of your residency?
NS: No, I mean we had this exhibition in the beginning to introduce the artists to the city.
ABC: After your residency is over, what happens then?